Las Vegas Postscript

They sound, everyday. Day and night, you’d get to hear them at least once a day. Where are they going? Are they ambulances rushing off to save a life or police cars chasing a rogue down the Interstate? How does it feel to be in the thick of action, knowing that a second’s delay or a mistake on your part might end up destroying someone’s life?

They sing and dance every night, these sirens. In my lofty 26th storey view, I can see Treasure Island burst into flames, and song and dance. They are not modestly dressed, every inch of their skin exposed tantalizingly to the entranced audience. They flirt with the renegade “pirates”, which they are supposed to seduce, as well as with the minds of the people watching them. Do they represent Vegas? Perhaps so, the sirens in their glitzy lingerie and showiness.

Everybody needs sunscreen, especially in the arid strip of desert we call Las Vegas. The sun is always high up in the impossibly blue skies, flanked by fluffy tufts of clouds. And yet, you can almost forget the heat, not quite but almost, because it is never hot. Not hot like in Singapore, where the sun and the humidity conspire to rob you of your cool senses. There is always a breeze blowing, a respite from the heat waves.

Everybody here exudes it. From the moment you step into the shop, to the time you finish your meal and leave, it is always there. A cheery “how are we doing today?” or a friendly “you enjoying your stay here?” There’s no lack of sunshine warmth drizzling down on you.

The plane remained stationary at the hangar, despite its purported departure time of 1813. I waited anxiously, willing the huge wings to start their engines. 40 minutes later, the engines finally roared into life and we were on our way. Upon landing at LAX, I rushed to the carousel and tapped my feet impatiently against the hard floor. Where was my bag? And why had I not tag it all the way to Singapore? It took a good 10 minutes before my bag materialised, bumps and slides and all. From then on, it was all about pure arm strength – pushing and pulling and cajoling the luggage to wheel speedily over the uneven ground, balancing the laptop and handbag on both shoulders. With just five minutes to spare, the bag was finally put onto the conveyor belt, securely checked and bound for home.

The queue moved rather smoothly as people came and left the check-in counters. All but one. A tall, bearded man with a Muslim name. He walked to the counter and from then on, it was hell. Where are you going? Where did you go? Why are you here? Why do you have a British passport? How much did you spend here? The words were all said with a smile but the intent was clear, post-911. A nation that is still smarting from the wounds of the attacks is not letting a second mistake get past its airport clearance once again.

Las Vegas Boulevard

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